BY DR. JULIA PICKENS
Ascension Medical Group, Rhinelander
About one in three American kids and teens is overweight or obese, according to the American Heart Association, and the prevalence of obesity in kids has more than tripled from 1971 to 2011.
Studies have also shown that there are many parents who are concerned about childhood obesity.
Here are five tips for helping kids develop habits to maintain a healthy weight:
• Set an example. Children take their cues from adults, especially their parents and other adults they are often around. Be sure you are eating healthy foods and getting plenty of physical activity yourself, and take time to enjoy physical activity as a family, as well.
• Remove temptations. Reducing the temptation of high-fat and high-sugar snacks can help your children develop healthy eating habits. Instead, make these foods occasional treats and encourage snacks like apples, bananas, carrots or broccoli with hummus.
• Involve kids in the meal planning and preparation process. Healthy eating should be a family goal. Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole-grain products, but involve children in the planning and preparation process as well. Doing so may help children develop an interest in what they’re eating and how it is made. If kids don’t like a particular food, be sure to occasionally encourage them to try it again. Taste buds can change.
• Help kids stay active. Physical activity can be fun, especially for kids. Encourage them to use their imaginations and play outside. If children aren’t enjoying physical activity, try turning play into a competition or game. In addition to the common physical benefits, regular physical activity can also increase self-esteem and reduce stress and anxiety.
• Make small changes every day. As with adults, changing too many habits at once can be overwhelming and ultimately hinder healthy living. Making small changes each day will make it easier on the whole family, especially if you are transitioning from a less healthy lifestyle.
Getting kids to eat right can also sometimes be a challenge, particularly if they are picky eaters.
Experts say that a conversation can help. Talk to your children and learn more about the foods they like. Teach them about the foods they need for their growing bodies. Find ways to make sure they have the knowledge and ability to eat healthy and tasty foods at every meal. Exercise is vital. And the summer months are a great time for families to focus on the importance of healthful eating and active lifestyles.
Dr. Julia Pickens is a Pediatrician with Ascension Medical Group in Rhinelander, for more information, visit ascension.org/wisconsin or call 715-361-4700.